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We've just rolled out a software update for Hoop.la, UBB Forum, and QuestionShark that focuses primarily on adding a number of user interface (UI) improvements.  Here's the detailed list of the newness:

 

1.  Slideshow Option for Photos in Clips Widget

 

This is a Hoop.la-only feature. If you have a photos-only Clips widget, you can now display the photos as a slideshow in the widget.  

 

  Screen Shot 2014-04-22 at 10.34.14 AM

 

To utilize this new option, create or edit a Clips widget and make sure you limit the "Clip Type" to "Photos" only. Then, choose the "Slideshow" option under "Style".  You can optionally autoplay the slideshow in these settings as well.  See the widget edit example below.

 

Screen Shot 2014-04-22 at 10.25.15 AM

 

 

2. Unified Posting Button on Home Page

 

This is a Hoop.la-only feature. On the Hoop.la "home" page, we've added a new "Post Content" button on the top right so your members can create content immediately, without having to go to a specific content module first.  On click of that button, the member will be presented with a list of all possible content types that they are permitted to post. (For instance, if they are not permitted to make blog posts, they will not see that option.)

 

 

Screen Shot 2014-04-22 at 10.40.29 AM

 

 

3. Disable Community Rank Option

 

Some sites prefer not to display any kind of rank for their members.  Previously, you could use custom CSS to hide most of the visible components of community rank on your site, but now we have a one-click setting (in the Member Settings section of your Admin Control Panel) that allows admins to completely remove all references to Community Rank.

 

4.  Admins Can Now Register Members

 

Admins can now register members themselves.  This does not replace normal member registration, but it provides a means for admins to register on behalf of others.  This option is available as a submenu item in the Manage Members control panel and is also an option (that only admins can see) on the Members Directory.

 

5.  Alternate Clips Interface and Control Over Supported Clip Types

 

This is a Hoop.la-only feature.  Sites that use clips for documents more than photos and videos, may want to utilize the new "Simple Rows" format for displaying clips on the Clips page.  This is a more simplified interface than our default "swatches" interface.

 

Here's what the "Clip Swatch" interface looks like:

 Screen Shot 2014-04-22 at 11.16.43 AM

 

And here is what the new "Simple Rows" interface looks like by comparison:

 Screen Shot 2014-04-22 at 11.20.41 AM

 

You can control this format on the Clips control panel page (Admin Control Panel > Modules > Clips).  In addition, and on the same control panel page, you can also now determine exactly which types of clips you want to support on your site.

 

For example, if you don't want any photo clips, now you can simply disable that clip type so that no photos will be displayed or accepted.

 

clips-settings

 

6. Improved Tag Details Page

 

Previously, when you clicked on a tag link, you were taken to a complicated page that displayed the content associated with that tag in segregated boxes that differentiated by content type.  We've vastly simplified that interface now and made it part of our "Search" page.  This is also gives you a lot more control over drilling down through tag content.

 

7.  Blog Quick Post Widget

 

This is a Hoop.la-only feature. We added a new standard widget: Blog Quick Post. This is nothing more than a simple way to quickly post to a blog as a short-form blog entry (with no title).

 

Screen Shot 2014-04-22 at 10.58.53 AM

 

 

Note that as part of this we also refined our BlogEntries widget so that can you specify which kinds of blog posts you want to showcase (regular blog posts, short-form blog posts, and tweets).

 

8.  Admins Can Place Members Into Groups Via Manage Members CP

 

If you have enabled groups for your account, your main site admins can now add or remove members to/from specific groups via the Manage Members admin control panel.  

 

9. Theme Editor Improvement

 

Previously, the custom CSS and custom HEAD code fields for a theme were found inside the "Page Shell" section of the theme. That didn't make a whole lot of sense, so we've split the old "Page Shell" section into two new sections that are better named- "Custom CSS/HEAD Code" and "Page Background", as shown below.

 

Screen Shot 2014-04-22 at 3.42.50 PM

 

10. Support for custom widgets and custom pages in Groups

 

This feature is for Hoop.la and UBB Forum sites only.  Groups can now have custom widgets and custom pages.

 

As with most releases, there were numerous other small minor improvements and bug fixes in this software update.

 

Enjoy!

 
 
 
 
Comments: 4 (Last: Brian Lenz · 1 day ago)

If you’re using Hoop.la or UBB Forum, you have a lot of available space to run ads in your community. We don’t recommend running amok, since that will drive away your members; however, you might want to serve ads that contain relevant products and services.

 

 3180236074_608666c955

 

Here are three quick ideas for ad products you can include on your community site.

 

Contextual Ads from a Service

 

The big bad daddy of this is Google AdSense: http://www.google.com/adsense/...subid=na-en-ha-sk_MC.

 

It’s quick to sign up, and the requirements are minimal. Just be aware that they can decide to remove you from the program at any time, for any reason, and they may not even tell you why you were removed. Read their Terms of Service carefully.

 

Alternatives include Yahoo Publisher Network, Chitika, Adversal, or Clicksor.

 

For any of these services, all you need to do is copy the ad code they give you, and paste it within a designated ad widget, a custom widget, or the header/footer area of your site.

 

Sell Sponsored Links or Sponsor Slots

 

If you have a thriving niche community site going, you are like shiny gold to a potential sponsor. Create a “sponsor info” page on your site, and specify your terms. You’ll want to include dimensions for graphic ads, a timeframe for the ad to run, and any restrictions on the type of ads you want to run. 

 

You can also use the standard “links” widget to run sponsored links easily. Just be sure you are transparent about sponsored/paid content or links on your site. Your members’ trust is a finite resource.

 

Amazon Affiliate Ads

 

Another very simple way to earn revenue at the same time you provide a service to your members is to run Amazon affiliate ads (https://affiliate-program.amaz...in/landing/main.html). This code can also be placed in a custom widget, and it will analyze the content of the page to serve relevant products, or you can specify exactly which items you want to promote.

 

With all of these ideas, you will definitely want to let your members know up-front that they are advertising. 

 

Are you using any of these services? Did we miss any good ones that you'd recommend?

 

 

Photo Credit: faith goble via Compfight cc

 

___________________________________________________________

I'd love to hear your thoughts here in the comments or come connect with me on Google+ or Twitter.

 
 
 
Comments: 7 (Last: Rosemary O'Neill · 4/18/14 12:48 PM)

Hoop.la, UBB Forum, and QuestionShark have always had an API available to support custom integrations, but we've recently just released a completely revamped version of the API with comprehensive, public documentation.

 

Hoop.la's API conforms to the commonly used REST architecture. REST enables developers to easily integrate with the API via basic HTTP requests. All REST API requests use a structured JSON response, which makes it very easy to parse and extract information from the response. Additionally, as is traditionally supported in a REST architecture, the response status code can be inspected to determine if a given request was successful or not.

 

The REST API supports all of the basic end-user functionality including Activity Stream, Blog, UBB Forum, Calendar, Clips, Chat Rooms/Events, QuestionShark, Groups, and Portfolios. There are also some basic administrative API commands available.

 

If you are interested in enabling the REST API on your plan or have suggestions for additional API features, please let us know on our support community.

 

Here are the links to the REST API documentation for each of our different products:

 

Hoop.la API

UBB Forum API

QuestionShark API

 

Note: The API is currently only available to Pro Enterprise customers. Some API requests are only available upon request, as marked in the API documentation.

 
 
Comments: 0

Today, we rolled out an improved file uploader for Hoop.la, UBB Forum, and QuestionShark that removes a previous dependency on Flash.   Now, no matter how you upload files, you will not be required to have Flash installed.  

 

Because iPad users do not use our mobile interface (which had its own, non-Flash uploader already), they were not able to attach any files because the iPad does not support Flash.  That problem is now solved and iPad users can now attach/upload photos and videos from their devices.

 
 
Comments: 0

Hoop.la sites have a brand new feature for chat rooms and events, a chat pause button. Your users can use this to pause the flow of new posts to the chat room or event window. This is especially useful for very active chats where things can sometimes fly by too quickly.

 

Note that hitting pause does not prevent others from posting. It simply pauses new posts from appearing on your own screen.

 

Screen Shot 2014-03-25 at 2.50.59 PM

 

You can also of course, reverse things by "unpausing".

 

Also note that if you hit the pause button you can still post, but when you post we will unpause things (otherwise, you might wonder if you really posted or not).

 

We've also made one other improvement to the chat screen, unrelated to the new pause button. If you scroll up, we will lock the window in place for you until you scroll back down to the bottom. Previously, you would be taken down to the bottom whenever there was a new post. This will make for a less jarring experience.

 

 
 
 
 
Comments: 0

We've rolled out a new feature for Hoop.la, UBB Forum, and QuestionShark: Announcements.

 

With this feature, admins on your can site can post a special announcement that will appear to your registered members until they acknowledge it.

 

 Screen Shot 2014-03-25 at 2.45.33 PM

 

This can be a useful tool for getting the word out about something important, without having to send an email, which can be regarded as intrusive by some of your members.

 

Once the member clicks on the "Mark As Read" button, he will never see the message again.  Until acknowledged though, the announcement will appear once per new session for the member.

 

The system also keeps track of the number of members who have acknowledged the message.  You can see the percentage of total members, as well as active members in your Announcement control panel.  See example below.

 

Screen Shot 2014-03-25 at 2.37.46 PM

  

Note that you can only have one announcement at a time. So, to start a new announcement, you will need to first delete the existing message.

 

To create and manage your announcements, go to your Admin Control Panel and click on the new Announcements section.

 

This feature is fully supported in the mobile interface, as well.

 
 
 
 
Comments: 3 (Last: Ted O'Neill · 4/17/14 10:01 AM)

We've added a new feature for Hoop.la, UBB Forum, and QuestionShark, that gives admins the option to notify members by email when they are added or removed from a permission circle.

 

Screen Shot 2014-03-25 at 3.00.59 PM

  

 

 
 
 
 
Comments: 1 (Last: Slaz · 3/29/14 8:04 AM)

We've added support for posting by email for forums (in Hoop.la and UBB Forum) and for blog entries (Hoop.la).

 

If you enable the feature, your community members will be able to post new forum topics and/or blog entries directly via email.  Each forum has its own distinct email address to ensure that the topic is posted to the right are in the forums.  

 

You can also replace our default email addresses with your own custom/vanity email addresses.

  

Screen Shot 2014-03-17 at 2.33.15 PM

 

If a user posts using Post By Email and the address they use is not registered on your site, we will register a new account for them (and they will be sent a community welcome email that includes a link to your terms of service, if you have set one), but any existing member and/or content moderation rules will still apply.

 

Such users can later add a password to their account, if they ever want to be able to sign into your site.


Also note that if you are enforcing an age limit on your site, POSTS BY EMAIL will not work (users will receive an error message), since you have indicated that you want to ensure that each member has been age-checked.  Thus, you should not enable this feature if you have an age-limit you are enforcing.

 

This feature is also supported on group and portfolio forums and groups, as well.

 
 
 
 
Comments: 0

Wouldn't it be great if random strangers showed up and created dynamic, relevant content for your website? Without being paid?

 

Yes, that's a thing. And it's called a branded online community.

 

Establish a "home base" on your corporate domain where your fans and customers can rely on direct, two-way communication with you and your team. If that trust relationship is established, the magic happens. It's like a barn-raising, with everyone working together to build a reservoir of value.

 

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Give them a way to share photos, videos, ask questions, answer each others' questions, share their opinions in polls, and get to know each other. All of that back-and-forth, and all of that meaty information feeds the search engines' hunger for useful, recent content.

 

And search engines hunger for content because humans hunger for information.

 

In the recently released book Absolute Value, authors Simonson & Rosen use the term “couch tracking,” accumulating lots of information over time, even before the need for a product is identified. Marketers need to focus more attention on the couch-trackers, who frequent online communities and forums as they have a certain product or brand “on their radar,” because they are likely to make a decision before marketers are even aware of them.

 

Gini Dietrich also recently wrote on this subject as it relates to brand journalism. Your PR team can leverage your guest bloggers, Q&A topics, and visual content to support their efforts. 

 

If you want to leverage user-generated content, bring together your community in a space you control. Raise a barn together.

 

 

Image via Flickr CC, Rebecca Siegel.

 

___________________________________________________________

I'd love to hear your thoughts here in the comments or come connect with me on Google+ or Twitter.

 
Comments: 0

Today, we rolled out an update for Hoop.la, UBB Forum, and QuestionShark that adds two major new features:

 

1. PDF and Document Search

 

The content of uploaded documents (including PDFs, Word documents, spreadsheets, and more) will now be indexed, which means they will be searchable!

 

2. Search Engine Spider/Robot Throttling Option

 

Some sites get hammered by search engine robots trying to index their content, especially older sites that have lots of content.  In some cases, a high percentage of overall traffic to the site can be attributable to these search engine bots.

 

Thus, we have added a new tool to allow you to tame these bots, if necessary. If your billable page views are getting close to your plan limit, this option may come in handy.

 

On your site Control Panel's Statistics page, you'll find the new Throttling option right below your billable page view stats.  You can even see the current percentage of traffic attributable to these robots.

 

You have three choice- No Throttling (default), Standard Throttling (which limits the bots to approximately 20% of your overall page views, and Custom Throttling.

 

Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 4.17.04 PM

 

Most sites will never need to use the "throttling" option, but it's a valuable option for sites that need it.

 

Please note of course that throttling search engine bots will prevent your site from being updated as often, which may negatively impact your SEO, so definitely consider the pros and cons before you enable it.

 
 
 
 
Comments: 5 (Last: Ted O'Neill · 3/4/14 10:21 AM)

Our friends at The Community Roundtable are conducting their annual State of Community Management survey, and you can participate.

 

Each year, they seek input from professional community managers across a wide array of organizations, in order to produce an inside look at how brands and businesses are advancing the practice of community management.

 

I did a summary of key takeaways from the 2013 State of Community Management here, and there were a lot of fascinating insights that emerged from last year's report. For example, community managers emerged as the silo-breakers within organizations, often pulling together resources across multiple departments to support community-building efforts.

 

If you'd like to complete the 2014 survey and share your experiences, click here: http://www.surveygizmo.com/s3/1490734/2014-SOCM. Note that the closing date is Friday, Feb 28, so don't delay!

 

The Community Roundtable also runs an amazing year-round program of members-only and free webinars and content. I highly recommend checking them out if you're interested in continuing education as a community management pro. And tell them Rosemary sent you

 

 

 

___________________________________________________________

I'd love to hear your thoughts here in the comments or come connect with me on Google+ or Twitter.

 
Comments: 0

Warning: this post might make you start craving FROYO...

 

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Richard Mills from the PR team at Orange Leaf Yogurt. He's responsible for heading up OL Insider, their thriving intranet community. He spilled his secrets for getting engagement going, measuring success, and communicating across a broad spectrum of corporate and franchisee participants.

 richie-mills-ol

 

1. First, please tell us a bit about your community. Who are your members, and how are they using it? Is it completely private?

Our community is called the OL Insider. I will describe OL Insider as the internal Orange Leaf intranet or community platform that brings everyone affiliated with the brand from an internal perspective together in one location. We have corporate employees on the intranet, franchisees, store managers, some store employees and even Reese Travis- the Orange Leaf CEO. Our community is private in the sense that it is integrated with our marketing portal. Our marketing portal is where we house all materials stores need, and we ensure that we monitor login credentials and reset them often. This means, if you don’t have access to our marketing portal, you cannot access the OL Insider. No one can access it through the URL.

 

2. What made you take the leap to Hoop.la?

About a year ago, we really started looking into ways to improve our communication structure. My goal as the one in charge of corporate communications was to ensure that we weren’t becoming one-dimensional

by just sending out mass emails to store operators. An essential part of brand success for franchises such as Orange Leaf is to establish a system where there is dialogue amongst corporate members and franchisees/managers at the store level.

 

People communicate in different ways, and it’s not okay to send out communication without giving the receivers of the message an opportunity to provide feedback. Hoop.la provided the platform we were looking for. A community page where corporate can communicate and get instant feedback. It also allows store operators to communicate amongst themselves, share ideas and even ask questions and receive answers in real time. For those who love to communicate through visuals, the photo sharing aspect of the site allows them to do so. Need calendar updates? Hoop.la has all of that. It has truly been a great platform for the brand.

 

3. Which modules are you using? (Forums, blogs, chat?)

We currently use the Blog feature for communication coming from headquarters, and the Forum module mainly for store operators to start their own conversations. We also use the Clips and Calendar modules.

 

We haven’t started using the Chat module yet. We plan on using that soon, but we didn’t want to overwhelm community members when we launched the platform.

 

4. Do you have any key success metrics for success for your community? How’s it going so far?

Our goal is to have 100 percent of stores represented on the platform. It is easy to get stores that opened after the launch of OL Insider signed up, but the difficult part is getting all stores opened prior to the launch

of OL Insider to sign on. The good news is that, we have over 80 percent of all stores represented on the platform in less than six months. This is a testament to our willingness to provide a platform that gives store

operators a voice and an opportunity to share ideas and get the assistance they need to make their stores successful. I think another key for measuring success is to ensure that the platform is being utilized and is active. Since launch, we have been able to maintain an average of 10,000 standard page views a month.

 

The engagement on the site has also been great as well. Our goal is to maintain this standard and keep the page active, fun and informative.

 

OL Insider

 

 

5. How did you get the word out to your audience about the new community?

First of all, this is something our franchise system wanted. Our job was to listen to them and to find the best platform to meet their needs. Once the OL Insider launched, we used emails from our CEO, videos, and even hosted multiple webinars to guide store operators on how to use the platform. For the first few months after the launch, I don’t think an email or video was sent to the franchise system without mentioning OL Insider. Once store operators started using the page, they loved it and helped spread the word.

 

Another tactic we used was to post exclusive content on OL Insider that you could only access by signing up.

 

6. How is the community staffed? Do you have a formal community manager and moderators?

We don’t have a formal community manager, but I usually manage the site and stay on top of it. We have HQ members who are moderators and others who are super admins. We distinguish corporate members from store operators by ensuring that everyone has their title, department and contact information on their profile. Headshots also help store operators put faces to names. Store operators have their store and location on their profile to help identify where they are and has even led to new friendships for people in the same state.

 

7. How do you encourage Orange Leaf corporate staff to participate and create content?

The Orange Leaf Corporate staff love the platform because it gives us all great insight into how stores are doing and the great things store operators are doing in the communities. We also ensure that departments are keeping up with the content by placing the responsibility of answering questions directed at corporate on each department.

 

8. What advice would you give to anyone who is just starting out with a franchisee communication strategy?

Communication was never intended to be one-dimensional, and unfortunately, some companies are unsuccessful because they fail to listen to consumers or their key stakeholders. The best part about OL

Insider for me has been wealth of information and feedback coming from store operators. I work at Orange Leaf because I want stores to do well and be successful. Without store operators, I would have no job.

 

I would be making a mistake if I didn’t listen and learn from the people who are actually in stores selling yogurt. In less than six months, OL Insider has helped improve a lot of our systems just because of the ideas being shared on the platform on a daily basis. My advice would be to communicate through different channels, keep it simple and remember that the art of communication is not complete without feedback.

 

9. I always like to ask for funny/unexpected stories...has anything surprised you during the planning and launch of the OL Insider community?

Yes – I have learned that the best way to get people involved is to give them a chance to talk about themselves or share their photos. I was surprised to learn from a recent OL Insider survey that the majority of the franchise system said that the photo sharing feature of OL Insider (Clips) is their favorite part of platform. I really believed the forums would rank higher because of the great ideas we all share on a daily basis. I was wrong. But then I thought about how boring the platform would be without some fun images from stores, and then I agreed with them.

 

 

~Thank you so much for sharing your experiences with us, Richard!

 

Orange Leaf Frozen Yogurt is a choose-your-own-topping frozen dessert chain with more than 285 locations across the United States and Australia. Orange Leaf was ranked one of the top new franchises for 2013 by Entrepreneur Magazine. 

 

 

___________________________________________________________

I'd love to hear your thoughts here in the comments or come connect with me on Google+ or Twitter.

 
 
 
Comments: 0

Anyone running an online community for business purposes should take the time to put together a formal business plan for the community. 

 3119891607_5c70175eac

 

Even if you never share it with anyone else, it will help you figure out (in advance, hopefully) how the community will be successful.

 

Keep in mind that all business plans are meant to be fluid documents; they need to be revised and revisited periodically. Set up a reminder to do a quarterly or semi-annual plan review.

 

This post will give you some tips for adapting the standard business plan format to an online community.

 

Elements of an Online Community Business Plan

 

Executive Summary

This is your “elevator pitch” for the community. In other words, what’s your response when the C-suite says “why do we need to do this?”  If you plan to share this business plan with others in order to get buy-in or budget, include a clear statement of what you need (resources, funding, staffing).

Market Analysis

Show how much work you’ve done to find out about the landscape for your community.

  • Are there competing community sites?
  • Are they monetized (and how)?
  • Who is your target community member?
  • How many people fit your profile, and how active are they in communities and other social networks?

Demographic information would be great in this section. Great sources of all types of community data include: The Community Roundtable, Leader Networks, and Feverbee.

Online Community Description

This should be a brief description of how the community will work, and how it fits into your larger business operation. What components of your community plan will make it successful?

Organization and Management

Describe who will be managing and moderating the community. Do you need internal staffing? Will you incorporate volunteers? What are the skills and experience of your designated community team? How will the community management team interact with the larger organizational structure of the business?

Marketing and Sales Strategies

Summarize how you plan to bring in community members, beginning with the early founding members and proceeding through to the maturity phase. Put in place an ongoing mechanism for attracting and retaining members. How will you promote the community? 

Service and/or Product

Do you plan to monetize the community directly? If so, what are the proposed revenue streams and how much do you forecast you will earn for each? What are the benefits from the community for the larger organization? What is your unique selling proposition for this community? Why would your target audience join your community rather than a competing one?

Funding Requirements

How much budget do you need to get the community up and running? How much do you need to maintain it into the future? Are there recurring costs? Consider time requirements from any departments that may need to be involved (do you need graphics from the marketing department? help with single sign-on from the IT department?) 

Financials

Unlike a business plan for a startup, you probably can’t include true financial statements for your community, but if you have access to any key financial metrics, you can include them here. Perhaps your community is geared toward support, and you have determined that the community has prevented a certain specific number of phone calls (a cost savings). If you have directly monetized the community (with ads, premium memberships, or premium content), you could include those numbers in this section.

 

This type of formal plan may seem like overkill, but even if you run through the structure and ask yourself some of these questions, it will benefit your community in the long run. 

 

Knowing the road ahead, and planning for results, will lead to a more coherent community strategy. And if you’re trying to build support from C-level executives, this type of planning will present the community in terms they prefer.

 

 

Photo Credit: gerlos via Compfight cc

 

___________________________________________________________

I'd love to hear your thoughts here in the comments or come connect with me on Google+ or Twitter.

 
 
 
Comments: 0

Our newest service is QuestionShark, a customer support platform that makes it incredibly easy for businesses of all sizes to collect and manage customer inquiries and feedback.

 

qshark-video-poster

 

Support Topics

 

Customers can classify their support topics as questions, issues, suggestions, compliments, tips, or conversations.  Support Reps can also post announcements.

 

Actionable support topics can be assigned to specific Support Reps and also have a status so everyone can see the state of each support item.

 

support-topic-screen

 

Customers can vote up suggestions, questions, and issues so the company can see the most requested ideas or hot button issues.  

 

Each topic can be set as public or private. When private, only the author and Support Reps can view them. When public, other community members can view or post to them.

 

Real-Time Updates

 

We are so fanatical about support ourselves that one thing that used to happen to us frequently when assisting our own customers was that two of us would respond to a customer at the same time, since we had no way of knowing when each other was posting.

 

To solve that, we added support for real-time updates.  Whenever you are on a support topic, you'll see if someone else is composing a reply or is there is new activity on the site.

 

This inspires confidence in customers and prevents support reps from stepping on each other's toes.

 

Whispers and Forwards

 

QuestionShark is about much more than setting a status on a support topic. It's about creating efficiencies though collaboration.  Support Reps can pos private whispers on topics that only they can see.  One rep can help another answer a question and the whispers are displayed inline on the topic so the context is always evident.

 

Reps can also forward support topics to each, which can be really handy when a tough topic/ticket has onerep stumped and he needs assistance.

 Screen Shot 2014-01-31 at 2.10.38 PM

 

Post By Email

 

QuestionShark supports both post by email and reply by email.  With Post By Email, you can allow your customers to submit new topics anytime via a special email address.  Those users do not have to register on your site in order to do so. 

 

Similarly, customers can reply to topics directly via email.

 

Mobile-Ready

 

QuestionShark has a mobile interface, just like our other services.  Anyone accessing a QuestionShark site via a mobile browser will receive the mobile interface automatically.

 

Widgets

 

Use widgets to call our recent support topics, your product list, FAQ, and/or documentation. These widgets can be embedded on outside sites if you wish to promote your support content elsewhere.

 

 

Special Lists

 

Prebuilt lists give both customers and support reps instant access to the content they care about. These lists include: Topics You Created, Topics You Follow, Open Topics With No Replies, and more.

 

Customizable

 

As with our other services, QuestionShark is very easy to customize. From the headers and footer, to your own custom theme, to custom menus and profile fields and permissions, you are always in control of your site. It's your brand and your rules.

 

Pricing

 

QuestionShark is a hosted service and pricing is based solely on the number of Support Reps you have.  All plans include unlimited disk space, bandwidth, page views, posts stored, and members.  Pricing starts at $99/month for 5 support reps.

 

Note that QuestionShark is also available as an add-on for our comprehensive community platform, Hoop.la.

 
 
 
 
Comments: 0

We just rolled out a major software upgrade for Hoop.la and UBB Forum.  We are  calling this one the QuestionShark release because the bulk of the changes revolve around QuestionShark as both a standalone product AND as a paid add-on for Hoop.la.

 

QuestionShark allows organizations to provide awesome online customer support.  Customers can post questions, issues, suggestions, tips, and more and the company can track each topic, assign tickets to Support Reps, and track status changes. It also supports posting by email and real-time status updates on topics.

 

We'll have more details about QuestionShark in a separate blog post later, but here is a quick rundown on all of the major changes in this software update:

 

1.  QuestionShark now available as a paid plan add-on for Hoop.la.  

 

If you are a non Pro customer, you can pay to add it to your account via the Your Plan page in your Hoop.la control panel.  Prices start at $99/month.

 

Note that QuestionShark page views do NOT count toward your billable page views at all. All QuestionShark page views are unlimited.

 

2.  Reply Forking

 

For any forum topic or support topic, admins/modersators can now fork an individual reply to start a new topic.  The forked topic will remain in the original topic, with a link to the new topic. 

 

  Screen Shot 2014-01-30 at 7.03.17 PM

  

3.  Reply By Email

 

We've added a new setting that allows your community members to reply directly via email when they receive a content email notification.  This applies for all content types- blog posts, forum topics, clips, calendar events, and of course support topics.

 

By default, this is enabled for all sites. To turn it off, go to your Member Settings and disable the feature.

 

4. Settings to Control Profile Wall and "Stuff I Love"

 

We've added two new settings in Member Settings that allows admins to disable the Profile Wall sections and the profile "Stuff I Love" box.

 

5.  Enhanced Member Snapshot and Profiles

 

We've added much more detail to the Member Snapshot (the popup window that appears when you click on a member's gingerbread man icon).   This includes more administrative links, which groups the member belongs to (if your Hoop.la site is using Groups), and which permission circles the member belongs to (that info is only available to Super Admins).

The Member Profile page has also been enhanced with more info. That includes more “action” links- including links to start a dialog and block the member, and more administrative options.  Any admin with the “Manage Members” permission can also view a new “Dossier” section that provides confidential information about the member.  See example below.

 dossier

  

 6.  Post By Email 


For QuestionShark, we’ve added support for posting new support topics by email.  Of note, users do not have to be registered on the site to post by email. This required us to support the notion of a LITE registrant, someone who becomes registered when they post, but who does not have a password. As such, member privileges are only granted when they click on links in the emails they receive from the community.


7. Invite User to Permission Circle


We’ve renamed permission “groups” permission “circles” to avoid confusion with Hoop.la’s Groups feature.  And now, you can invite people to join your site AND add them to a permissions circle simultaneously.  Use the new “Email Addresses” tab when adding members for the permission circle.  The invitees will receive an email to join your site and when they accept they will also be added to the permission circle you specified. 

 

As usual, there were numerous other minor upgrades, tweaks, and bug fixes.

 

 
 
 
 
Comments: 3 (Last: Rosemary O'Neill · 1/31/14 4:27 PM)

Did you know that community managers, those hardy souls who tirelessly answer questions, invite conversation, and toil in the trenches of social engagement have their own day?

 cmad-2014

 

In 2010, Jeremiah Owyang proposed that the world set aside the fourth Monday in January to honor community managers. Since then, lots of organizations have stepped forward to join in the fun. Using the hashtag #CMAD or #CMGR, folks have organized in-person meetups, Tweetups, Hangouts, and individual random acts of gratitude.

 

Last year, the gang at MyCMGR.com hosted a marathon Hangout to honor the day. It was co-hosted with Hootsuite and lasted for 12 hours!

 

This year, it's a 24-hour Hangout, and I'm honored to be joining the panel on Delivering Beyond Expectations.

 

Be sure to check out the whole schedule--there are topics for everyone in every industry throughout the day (and night). 

 

When will we see the first Hallmark card for #CMAD?

 

___________________________________________________________

I'd love to hear your thoughts here in the comments or come connect with me on Google+ or Twitter.

 
 
 
Comments: 1 (Last: Slaz · 1/26/14 11:07 AM)

If your online community is a "labor of love," or perhaps for a non-profit or charitable cause, you can collect donations (either one-time or ongoing) by using a Paypal widget.

 Screen Shot 2014-01-16 at 11.42.59 AM

Hoop.la makes it easy to add custom widgets, so all you need to do is go to the Paypal site and follow the instructions.

 

How to Set up a Paypal Widget on Your Hoop.la Community

  1. Go to Paypal and create your desired button (be sure you read the instructions regarding which type of button you need). 
  2. Copy the widget code (and save it somewhere).
  3. Go to your Hoop.la site, and on the page where you want the widget to appear, click "add widget to this page."
  4. On the widget popup, select Create New Custom Widget.
  5. In the popup, give your new widget a name, and paste the Paypal widget code into the larger box. Click Create Custom Widget.
  6. Drag the new widget into position on the page wherever you want it to appear.

 

Note that you can also put the Donate button in your header, footer, or on a custom page within Hoop.la as well.

 

___________________________________________________________

I'd love to hear your thoughts here in the comments or come connect with me on Google+ or Twitter.

 
 
 
Comments: 2 (Last: Rosemary O'Neill · 1/22/14 6:39 AM)

If you're building a thriving online community, chances are you've already planned your outreach, invited some people who fit your target audience, and prodded your core members to invite their friends.

 

Once you've exhausted that resource, how do you attract new members?

 

Hint: it involves something that rhymes with Shnoogle (or Shming).

 

 search engine secrets for online communities

 

Yes, search engines can be a source of new members if you play your cards right. Rather than beating the bushes to find people interested in your niche, why not make it easy for them to find you?

Key areas of your online community to optimize:

  • Use custom URLs, so your content is easily identified.
  • Make sure your images are properly titled and captioned.
  • Create a coherent identity (logo, tagline). Make it dead easy for your existing members to talk about your community, as in "it's the best place on the web to learn about extreme snowboarding," or "it's the best resource for lead-based paint removal experts." Whatever your "thing" is, make it very clear.
  • Come up with 3-5 important key phrases or key words that your core audience would be interested in, and make sure that those are sprinkled (only where they make sense) in your content, via blog posts, forum topics, etc.  (Note thatI said sprinkled, not stuffed.)
  • Don't leave your "about this community" blank. Write a smashing description that makes it obvious who would be interested.
  • Try to do "deep-linking" into your own community content. When you do a blog post, find a relevant older blog post or forum topic to link to. Google sees this as a sign of longevity and authority (that's a good thing). 
  • Bonus if you've gotten your Google authorship connected. This will help your blog posts appear with a nice avatar in Google search results, which will help get you (and your community) noticed! 

 

Do you have any special tricks for attracting the attention of your core audience?

 

 

 

Photo Credit: Bart van de Biezen via Compfight cc

 

___________________________________________________________

I'd love to hear your thoughts here in the comments or come connect with me on Google+ or Twitter.

 
 
 
Comments: 0

On January 3, 2014 at 4:00 PM Eastern Time, we will be having a live chat event here on this site that seeks feedback from our users about improvements you would like to see for FeePod, our premium membership system. 

 

Everyone is invited to participate! We're using Hoop.la's chat feature, so no special plug-in or download required--just go to the link below and join in.

 

Chat Event Bookmark: https://www.socialstrata.com/c...um-membership-system

 

___________________________________________________________

I'd love to hear your thoughts here in the comments or come connect with me on Google+ or Twitter.

 
Comments: 0

One of our most popular feature suggestions was for liking individual comments/replies.  Today, we are rolling out our "You Like Me" release, which includes that and more, for both Hoop.la and UBB Forum.

 

Here are the highlights of this software update:

 

1.  "Like" Comments and Replies

 

Sometimes posting an actual comment or reply is overkill and all you want to do is give a quick thumbs up. You can now do so with our support for comment/reply likes.  Such likes will appear in the site and profile activity streams. In addition, comment authors can be notified about the likes, if they prefer.  

 

2.  New Theme Settings

 

You can now set an outside border on shaded content areas, providing more definition to those areas.  In addition, we added support for styling the side navigation menu differently from the top navigation item.  By default, however, the side navigation menu will match the top navigation menu styling.  Finally, we added support for a new "Private Content" section.  This will be used more for our upcoming QuestionShark service, but it will also be used for errors and warning messages.

 

3.  One-Click Suspend Notifications in Emails

 

We have fundamentally changed the way we send content notification emails and this allows us to add support for un-subscribing from all content notification emails in one click from the email.  When a user clicks on the link to stop email notifications, he will not have to sign into your site, making the process extremely quick.  The action is equivalent to checking the "Suspend All Email Notifications" link on the member notification settings page. 

 

4. Hoop.la Premium Memberships is now FeePod

 

Now that we have more than one service using our premium membership service, we realized we needed to re-brand our premium membership service so that it is not tied directly to Hoop.la.  Thus, while the premium membership system itself has not changed (or changed ownership), we are now calling it FeePod (as in, FeePod Premium Memberships).

 

FeePod is a service of Social Strata and again, aside from the name change, nothing has changed in terms of the way the service operates.  Premium membership purchasers will now see FeePod as the billing entity.

 

5.  Stock Avatars

For member avatars, we now support both user-uploadable avatars and/or stock avatars (avatars that you upload and that your members can choose from).  Some sites do not want their members to upload their own avatar images, so supporting stock avatars gives you another way to control the experience on your community.


Screen Shot 2013-12-04 at 11.08.47 AM

 

6. Parental Consent Option

If you site is targeting children, it’s important that you follow the COPPA laws in the United States.  With our new Parental Consent option, you can set a flag on underage accounts to require parental consent before the account is authorized.  You set this in the Profile Settings section of your control panel (under the “Birthday” field).

When enabled. you will see a new Parental Consent Queue under your Manage Members control panel section.  That is where you would mark pending underage members as approved so that they can become authorized members of your community.

Screen Shot 2013-12-04 at 11.10.38 AM

7. UBB Forum- Choose Powered-By graphic

UBB Forum customers can now choose from a selection of powered-by images, rather than having to use one hard-coded image. (Hoop.la has always had this option.)

 

As usual, there are numerous bug fixes and other improvements, as well, in this release.  

 

 
 
 
 
Comments: 10 (Last: Julia M Usher · 12/4/13 11:59 PM)
 
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